Jerusalem Memorial Chapels

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A Loved One Has Passed…Now What? Use This Guide.

One of the most commonly asked questions I receive as a funeral director is, “Who does the family need to notify when a loved one passes?”  When dealing with the weight of a loss and settling their affairs, the list of items that must be taken care of can often seem endless. Funeral arrangements are usually the first of many things that need to be addressed. There may be bills, credit cards, utilities, government programs, and other items, all of which can add to the stress and anxiety of dealing with an already stressful time. This blog post is provided to help organize the thought of dealing with the estate and to alleviate some of the stress and worry.


Who You Must Contact & What You Need to know:

Banks have different steps to the closing of a decedent’s accounts. They will want you to supply them with a certified death certificate. In the case of a spouse with a joint account, a death certificate will be needed to remove the decedent’s name. Use caution, as many estate attorneys and financial professionals caution that bank accounts should not be closed too quickly after a death. The funds in the account may be needed to pay outstanding bills or other debts.

Credit Reporting Agencies
Credit reporting agencies are notified of a person’s death in one of two ways: either through Social Security or the executor of a decedent’s estate. To be sure that a lock is put on the decedent’s credit report file, the executor will contact at least one credit reporting agency. That agency, in turn, will notify the other agencies. Marking a person’s credit reports as “deceased” prevents any efforts to get credit approved in their name, which deters identity theft.

Social Security Administration
The Social Security Administration will be notified of the death by the funeral director electronically through the filing of the death certificate. If a check has been mailed for the month in which a person has died, it will need to be returned. If the decedent had a direct deposit, the SSA would withdraw the funds electronically. It is recommended to keep bank accounts open for at least 45 days to make sure the funds are available to be returned.

Medicaid and Medicare
When the Social Security Administration is notified of a person’s death, that information is automatically passed on to Medicaid and Medicare.

When you are starting to settle the estate, contact their employer to find out about any death benefits, life insurance, or retirement funds to which the decedent is entitled. The company’s human resources department should be able to provide such information and steps on how to collect any of these funds.

Pension/Retirement Fund
If the decedent was actively receiving a pension payment or had any retirement accounts, contact the representative to alert them of the death. Information you will need to provide is the decedent’s Social Security number, identification number, date of birth, and date of death, along with a death certificate. If you are eligible to receive continued benefits, the representative should be able to arrange survivor benefits.

Debt Instruments (Including Credit Cards)
Any company that has provided a loan to the decedent should be notified when the person passes. You may need to provide copies of the death certificate to these companies. Credit card companies are required to comply with the Credit Card Act of 2009, which mandates that credit card companies respond to requests for final bills in a timely fashion and forbids them from imposing late fees or finance charges during the administration process. Loans, whether secured or unsecured, should be paid out of the decedent’s estate. If the estate does not have sufficient funds to cover the debt, you may need to consult with an attorney to determine the responsibilities of the next of kin.

After a person’s death, the various insurance companies with which the decedent held policies will all need to be notified. When reaching out to the companies, you should have copies of the death certificate and policy numbers. The next step will be the insurance company-specific.

Even death does not exempt a person from taxes. Talk to your accountant or tax preparer for guidance concerning what will be needed. Depending on the date that a person dies, you may have to wait nearly a year before filing their final tax return.

The executor should call utility companies, such as gas, telephone, cable, internet, and electric, in order to get the accounts changed over to the spouse’s name. A death certificate and proof of residence will be needed in order to change the account over or to close the account. If the decedent lived alone and owned the home, do not immediately turn off any services as they may be needed to maintain the dwelling through probate.

It is important to cancel subscriptions to newspapers and magazines, as well as the gym and other club memberships. Often these subscriptions and memberships automatically withdraw renewal fees from checking accounts, and they will continue to do so until they are told to stop. You may need to monitor the decedent’s accounts for automatic withdrawals to find out what subscriptions and memberships they have.

Social Media
The modern world has seen Social Media become a popular venue for all ages to congregate and create a profile. In order to memorialize and close a decedent’s accounts, you will need a copy of a death certificate, the person’s name and date of birth, and may need to prove your own identity.

Adam Novak is a 2nd Generation Jewish Funeral Director & Founding Partner of Jerusalem Memorial Chapels.   He can be reached any time (24/7) via phone/text at (516) 418-7000 or email

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